Why new College Football Playoff rankings still don’t look good for Michigan-Ohio State loser

Michigan ranked No. 3 in second CFP poll

Trevor Keegan #77 lifts Blake Corum #2 of the Michigan Wolverines during the a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Rich Schultz, 2022 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Michigan and Ohio State are ranked among the top three teams in the new College Football Playoff rankings, but it still looks like a long shot for both to end up in the final four.

After Michigan blew out Rutgers in the second half and Ohio State survived a bit of a scare from Northwestern, the Wolverines moved up two spots to No. 3 in the poll while the Buckeyes held strong at No. 2.

They’re two of only four unbeatens left, and almost everyone agrees they’re both among the top teams in the country. But in three weeks, one of them is guaranteed to end the season with a loss.

After Alabama lost for the second time and Clemson got blown out at Notre Dame, the chances of an 11-1 Big Ten team making the playoff improved. But Tuesday’s rankings suggest that’s still highly unlikely.

Here’s why:

Tennessee is (almost certainly) in with 3 more wins

At a glance, the updated rankings were disappointing for Tennessee because it dropped four spots to No. 5. But in reality, the Volunteers are in great position to make the top four if they win their final three games.

Tennessee was No. 1 in the first CFP poll because of its impressive win over Alabama. But now, it’s the 27-point victory at LSU that looks even more impressive. Throw in a 38-point drubbing of Kentucky (which also moved back into the top 25), and you’ve got the best trio of wins in the sport.

Yes, this weekend’s loss was a bit unsightly, but if Georgia wins the SEC and finishes 13-0, Tennessee’s loss will be the most forgivable of any in the country this season.

Would the committee prefer an Oregon team that lost to Georgia by 46 points? Sure, it was in Week 1, but that game still happened. It’s hard to imagine the Ducks jumping Tennessee without the latter slipping up.

Tennessee’s final three games -- Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt -- look like de facto warmups for the playoff.

Pac-12 in excellent position

In previous years, the SEC got two teams into the playoff because the Pac-12 played its way completely out of contention. That is certainly not the case this year.

With just three weeks of regular season remaining, there are three one-loss teams out West. Oregon, USC, and UCLA are all ranked in the committee’s top 12, and if any of those three win the conference and finish with a 12-1 record, it’s hard to see the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game staying ahead of that team in the rankings.

The one outcome that would doom the Pac-12′s playoff hopes would be Utah winning the league, because the Utes already have two losses and will not end up in the top four.

But Utah’s Nov. 19 matchup with Oregon is in Eugene, and a loss there would knock Utah out of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Simply put, Oregon, USC, and UCLA probably all have to lose once more for the Big Ten to have two teams ranked ahead in the final poll.

TCU

Everyone is counting TCU out despite a 9-0 record -- the Horned Frogs are underdogs by a full touchdown this week at three-loss Texas.

But TCU has found a way to win every game so far, and even if it drops one game but bounces back to win the Big 12 title, is a team that didn’t even make the Big Ten Championship Game going to get preferential treatment? That hasn’t been the committee’s style in the past.

I think Tennessee and the Pac-12 are bigger problems than TCU right now, but looking back at all the previous debates between one-loss teams, the conference champion typically gets rewarded, and rightfully so.

If the Horned Frogs had still been ranked behind Tennessee, it would have said a lot more about what the committee thinks of them. At No. 4, it’s clear they’ve finally earned respect.

Just like Michigan and Ohio State fans are rooting for Utah to win the Pac-12, they should be major Texas fans the rest of the season.

Clemson has a heartbeat

The committee overrated Clemson in the first poll at No. 4, and that benefit of the doubt held strong after the Tigers’ blowout loss at Notre Dame.

Despite two of their “top 25″ wins falling out of the rankings (Syracuse and Wake Forest), the three-touchdown drubbing the Tigers took at the hands of a team that lost to Marshall and Stanford wasn’t enough to knock them out of the top 10.

Clemson has three easy home games remaining on its schedule and then gets an ACC title game battle with No. 15 North Carolina. In this moment, it feels like the Tigers are dead in the water, but when they finish 12-1 with an ACC crown, you’ll see how that changes.

Love for LSU

This will be a moot point if Georgia beats LSU in the conference title game, but it’s worth mentioning that the committee is keeping open the possibility of putting a two-loss SEC champ into the playoff.

LSU is currently ranked high enough to make a significant move up the rankings if it wins out. There’s no way it can pass a Tennessee team it lost to by 27 points at home, but if LSU were to beat Georgia, how do you keep the Tigers below Oregon, a team that lost to Georgia by 46?

Nobody wants to hear it, but if TCU loses a game and the Pac-12 champ isn’t a one-loss Oregon or USC, an 11-2 LSU team could probably get in behind Georgia, Tennessee, and the Big Ten champion. Would it be deserved? Maybe not, but there’s always some preferential treatment for the SEC winner.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.